Grantland Reality Fantasy League: Was This the Greatest Survivor Season in Modern History?

CBS Survivor

This week in reality TV, we saw Cochran crowned as the ultimate Survivor, Hurricane Nia fall victim to rogue sex toy attack, and, you know, THAT. The tremendous vision above marked the high point at the climax of what was a legendary season of Survivor. [Buckshot Shorty voice] Let’s take a sec to think back …

Cochran (Survivor, Simmons), 50 points: As Chuck Klosterman masterfully pointed out in his Probstian Podcast, Survivor all too often rewards the wallflower. The backstabbers, challenge-winners, and manipulators are left wiping the blood off their hands and hoping for fan favorite. This season was different.

Cochran is a true Survivor (50 points). Likable, calculating, unthreatening yet merciless — he worked his wiles to the end. He spent just enough time wakeboarding in the momentum of Phillip’s “Stealth R Us” silliness, but always had an exit strategy. It’s baffling why anyone would intentionally take him to final tribal — his favor with the jury and way with words would never let him lose — but it didn’t matter, because he somehow willed his way there with challenge wins. The super Harvard-y “twerp” won every key immunity, so that even those who recognized his potential final tribal domination were powerless to avoid it. While Kim and her hypnotic laser eyeballs were worthy of the title, her season lacked the competition, twists, and good ol’ reality-TV weirdness that Cochran ruled over.

I know you will find this shocking, but I don’t commit any of this bullshit to memory. Unlike my pod partner Juliet, I barely remember last week’s episode. So when they started this episode with the ol’ “here’s what happened this season on the show” package, I remember saying to myself, “This is easily the best season I have seen in a decade,” but then I said to myself, “Oh yeah, self. You don’t remember any of the previous seasons from this decade.”

Regardless, to refresh your memory, here is a chronological log of the events of an excellent season of reality TV:

Francesca: Back for “redemption” after being voted out first in her first season on the show, Francesca was once again sent packing after the first tribal.

The “Cool Kids” Alliance: These four “fans” of the show decided to make an alliance of the four most attractive people in their tribe. You’ll be stunned to learn that this made them a minority alliance.

Stealth R Us: I feel like Phillip just sits around waiting for someone to offer him a reality show.

Shamar Being Shamar: Shamar took camp lethargy to new lows and was such a dick that the audience turned on him even though he’s an Iraq war veteran. That is not easy.

Brandon Losing His Mind: I can’t decide if the best part of Brandon losing his mind was when he poured out the tribe’s rations, called his own tribal council, or was brought back from the brink by a well-timed Probsty rundown.

Malcolm’s Super Tribal: Malcolm’s immunity hat trick made Phillip the Fun Sponge disappear and led to the longest Survivor e-mail thread in the history of Grantland.

Cochran Dominating Challenges: The best part of Cochran winning challenges were the dances that Cochran did after winning challenges. He made golfer/caddie celebrations look like professional salsa dancing.

Erik Starving and Climbing a Tree for Coconuts: Erik looking as skinny as Rachel Zoe, halfway up a gigantic palm tree, and screaming “I just want some foooood!” was the most Survivor thing to ever happen on Survivor.

Brenda: [Speechless.]

This Little Dude:


I’m not even explaining that. It’s better that way.

Johnny (Real World, Jacoby), 25 points: OK, I was never on the debate team or a lawyer or anything, but I would argue that there are better ways to effectively get your point across than taking your penis out (20 points). Johnny on Real World would not agree.

As he came to the support of his Way-Too-Hot-For-Him girlfriend Averey in her spat with Nia, Nia fired this shot at Johnny, “I have seen your little penis and I know for a fact that is why you are the way you are.” So he decided to allow his penis an opportunity to defend itself:

This is clearly the questionable moment of the week:

Why did he do this? Did he forget he was on TV? Did they clean the couch? Did he consider the impact this would have on the dog? How drunk was he? Would it be weirder if he took his shirt off? Or not weirder? What point was he trying to prove? That it was big or small? Why did he put his pants back on when his girlfriend got home? Isn’t that kind of shady? Is that a huge bottle of chocolate Zico? Is there a better drink than chocolate Zico? When is the next coconut water company going to say, “Screw it, let’s just swallow our pride and do chocolate too”? Did he pee in that bottle? Does this make you like Johnny less or more? I think more.

Regardless, Nia’s second wave of attack was to disrespect Johnny’s earning power as a chef, announcing, “You’re making what? Eleven dollars an hour here and back home?” Which led to the most adorable moment of everness. In the post-fight cuddle between Johnny and his Way-Too-Hot-For-Him girlfriend, Averey, she says, “I don’t care what she has to say about me, she is a nobody just like the rest of us. I know who I am. You should know you who are.” He answers, “I’m a cook.” She answers, “And I’m a bartender … so what?” And they play a sappy song and I find myself almost crying to Real World.

Jessica (Real World, Kang), 15 points: Jessica is the worst. She spent this entire episode crying (5 points) and trying to force a non-consensual friendship with Averey and Ana (5 + 5 = 10 points). It is one thing to not be liked. It’s worse to force yourself on people that don’t like you. But it is THE WORST to constantly talk to the people that don’t like you about how much they don’t like you. There should be laws against this behavior. This week’s GRTFL Top Five are the Top Five Annoying-Ass Comments Jessica Made To Or About Averey And Anastasia In An Attempt To Friendship-Assault Them, listed from “Man, I’m glad I don’t live with her” to “Seriously, this should be against the law”:

5. Jessica to Averey and Anastasia: ”I’m done, because I felt like left out by you guys and it hurt.” (Jessica, we would all love nothing more than you being “done.” YOU ARE NEVER “DONE.”)

4. Jessica to Averey and Anastasia: “Can I ask you a question?
Averey: “Yes.”
Jessica to Averey and Anastasia: “I noticed a little awkwardness when I said I was hanging back and you guys kind of branched off.” (You wish they “branched off”. They ran the fuck away from your annoying ass.)

3. Jessica to Averey and Anastasia: “When you’re in a group setting, everyone needs to work on being friends with everyone and being friends as a group.” (Jessica, they agree completely. That is why they spent the last 30 minutes trying to keep you from the group.)

2. Jessica in an interview: “I have always wanted to be part of a girl clique, but for whatever reason girls always clique up around me and never with me.” (Tell me about it, Jessica. I have also made many unsuccessful attempts to join a girl clique.)

1. Jessica in an interview: “Being left out kind of makes me feel like I did in middle school when the girls would be like, ‘You can’t sit with us.’ Why? Why am I not good enough to be in your little group?” (It’s not that you aren’t good enough. It’s that you aren’t mediocre enough.)

Sometimes when I am mean in this column I start to feel all guilty and want to delete everything. Then I try to convince myself that the actual humans on these shows don’t read everything written on the Internet about them. Then I remember who I am talking about.

Averey (Real World, Lisanti), 10 points: Averey scored 5 points for arguing with Nia and 5 points for a couple tears that made the most adorable moment of everness even a little more adorable. The best moment of the week, easily, was during one of those little mini-segments during the commercials when this telephone call happened:

Averey on the phone: “Guess what, Grandma? I made the Hooters calendar this year.”
Averey’s grandma: “Did you really? You rock on, sister.”

I want to launch a show on the YouTube channel where Averey’s grandma and my grandma-in-law get together and do stuff. It would be called “Rock On, Sister.” Who wouldn’t watch this?

Hurricane Nia (Real World, House), 10 points: Has anyone noticed that Hurricane Nia hasn’t called herself Hurricane Nia on the show? What’s with that? I thought this would become a thing, but it never did. That’s some bullshit. While Hurricane Nia initially was exciting because of her random acts of cannibal sex and hatred of outerwear, she is starting to become kinda annoying. When she inserted herself into the Jessica/Averey beef (5 + 5 = 10 points), I let it slide because she just loves drama. But her role in the, “Hey, you’re getting fired for not coming to work” conversation with Brett the Manager at Pizza Schmizza was inexcusable. First, let’s review the reason for her firing.

Nia calls in to Schmizza to check if she is on the schedule:

Nia: “Can I speak to Brett?”
Pizza Schmizza Employee: “Brett isn’t here right now.”
Nia: “Well, actually I just wanted to see if I’m on the schedule today.”
Pizza Schmizza Employee: “Let’s seeeee … I don’t see your name on the schedule at all. But I’m not sure if she just wants you to come in or not and just hasn’t put you on the schedule. I can tell her to call you or if you want to call back she will probably come in at, like, four.”
Nia: “No, that’s cool.”

SHE WASN’T ON THE SCHEDULE! Somehow, this mystery employee never surfaced to back up Nia’s story, which led to her being fired. However, Nia’s treatment of Brett was way more unjust than Brett’s termination of Nia. This is what she had to say: “I know you kind of want this moment and I am happy to give it to you because I don’t need to work, but I understand that you are who you are and this is probably going to be the rest of your life and I just think it is lame that you wouldn’t call me and tell me.”

Here’s the thing: The world has a way of balancing everything out. When you spend part of the episode belittling a kind, hardworking woman in one part of the episode, you are going to spend another part of the episode panicking because there is a sex toy lodged in your nether regions. (Don’t worry about it, it’s too gross to explain.) That’s just the way it is.

Sherri and Erik (Survivor, Lisanti), 5 points: Normally I fast-forward through the part in the last episode of Survivor when they walk around and talk about all the people that were part of their season, but I loved this season so much that I relished it. I would like you to relive the cast one by one with me as they head into the last tribal, where Erik and Sherri got into a weird argument (5 points):

Francesca: “She wasn’t voted off because she is a bad player, she was voted off because she is a huge threat.” —Cochran
Allie: I totally forgot about the three hot blondes from the start of this season. Allie’s quote during this segment was easily my favorite, “I think the best part of the game for me was meeting Eddie and Reynold. It probably cost me in the game, but I will be friends with them for life.”
Hope: Eddie called Hope “my first Survivor love.” Then they showed the jiggliest slow-motion shot to air on television since The Man Show. Methinks a female editor did not cut this scene.
Shamar:Survivor is a tough game. I am a strong guy. It takes a lot to bring me down.” No it does not, Shamar.
Laura: Who the hell is this? How many hot blondes were there on this show?
Brandon: “I made it rain with them beans and I don’t regret none of it.” I love the Hantz family.
Matt: It takes a certain level of commitment to filth to grow a dreadlock in your beard.
Julia: “For me, moving forward trying to make it as a race car driver, I am going to have to be more aggressive.” Read that again.
Carrine: “I was going to flip for a gay and three hotties, that is Carrine 101.” Carrine really grew on me as the season went on. I wish she had gotten further.
Michael: “I’m proud of my game. Dreams do come true.” Michael is one of those people that everyone loves. Those people would be annoying if you didn’t love them so much.
Phillip: “It’s surreal playing with Phillip.” —Cochran
Malcolm: “Doing two seasons back-to-back was intense to say the least … there is still a part of me that needs to get back out here to get the job done.” Is there an exemption where we can get Malcolm on The Challenge? No? Can I start a petition?
Reynold: My favorite thing about Reynold was that everyone pluralized his name. By the second episode he was Reynolds and he just went with it.
Andrea: “Going home with an idol in my pocket was definitely the low point of my game.” Ya think?
Brenda: [Speechless.]

Now that Survivor is over, I am going to spend part of next week’s column giving you a roundup of the non-GRTFL-sanctioned action in the reality-TV world. Highlights will include Small Town Security, Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, and others. Oh, wait. I just remembered that next week is when Nia punches Averey in the back of the head. Decent chance I just write 4,000 words on that and call it a day. Check for that next Friday, and enjoy your weekend.

Filed Under: CBS, Hurricane Nia, Jeff Probst, Mtv, Real World, Reality TV Fantasy League, Survivor

David Jacoby is an ESPN producer who somehow became a writer and editor for Grantland.

Archive @ djacoby